Professional Beauty : Lessons Learnt and Shared

You’re working with all kinds of people and sometimes in quite a personal way. You definitely wouldn't be able to find a beauty therapist who didn't have a story or two to tell! After 9 years working in the industry I've learnt a lot of lessons.....

More than a Therapist

So you want to be a beauty therapist....did you also sign up to be a friend, doctor, counsellor, shoulder to cry on…then list goes on. To some people this is what you are. You probably will feel quite close to some clients, get friendly with them and have a laugh. This is great but you must remember your role and be professional.

The moment you let this slip is probably the moment it will come back to bite you. I've had clients for years and had great relationships with them but they have still snapped and shouted at me when they thought an appointment had been booked in wrong, taken offense at something which I meant as a joke or ignored me when I have seen them outside of the salon.

It's really nice to have clients that you look forward to doing and feel really comfortable around but just remember not to get too relaxed; you are their therapist first and foremost so act that way at all times. Personal problems, medical problems keep them quite neutral; if you’ve got some good advice then maybe share this with them but don’t attempt to diagnose anything. Remember you aren’t a doctor or a Psychiatrist - leave that to the professionals!

Don’t drop your standards

When I first left college I worked in a small salon. There was a sink with soap and one small pot of barbicide (and only one pair of tweezers so not much sterilising time between clients). As far as hygiene went that was it. Obviously I had learnt the importance of sterilising at college but having not worked anywhere else I didn’t know what was the norm in a working environment.

When I look back now I realise how bad it was! The next salon I worked in the boss was practically OCD, but this was a good thing as it instilled in me really good working practises. When I went to work in a busy spa, time constraints meant that hygiene went out of the window for some Therapists but I kept my standards high.

If your employer is not giving you enough time or equipment to carry out safe working practises then you can raise this with them. It is an important issue as the consequences of poor sterilisation and hygiene can be serious.

The same goes for the quality of your treatments. If you feel like corners are being cut or you’re not given the time you should be to carry out treatments you should be able to raise this issue. At the end of the day it will be your reputation as a Therapist as well as the salon reputation that is affected. And if the clients aren’t getting the treatment standard that they expect they’ll go elsewhere.

The customer isn't always right

Clients these days are more informed than ever about treatments. They go to multiple salons due to offer websites etc; they can read up on treatments and even watch them on you tube. They have more knowledge than ever before. This can lead them to believe they know it all and in some cases more than you in fact!

Of course this is not the case at all, you are the professional, and you are the one that has done years of training and have the experience. No amount of watching other Therapists (who says they were doing it right anyway), watching videos or things they’ve heard from other people could compare to this.

Don’t be afraid to tell them, albeit gently, that you know what you are doing and explain the reason why that is the best way to do whatever it is. I’ve had clients telling me the way I should be pulling the wax strip off (the wrong way); how quick they’re nails are going to take to dry (cue them smudging them immediately), which moisturiser to use (one for oily skins on a severely dry and dehydrated skin) etc.

Don’t let the clients boss you about; obviously they need to leave happy but that doesn’t mean you ending up doing things completely wrong to suit them. Don’t compromise yourself, if you believe what they want you is going to be completely wrong for them then don't do it.

I once had a client whose eyebrows had been tinted too dark by another Therapist. She insisted the only way to fix it would be to wax them off which I absolutely refused to do. If you think what they want will look completely awful then I would advise them against it and if they still insist then refuse.

If I had a client come to me and another Therapist had waxed their eyebrows off I'd think what kind of Therapist would ever do that; they’re either completely crazy or completely unqualified and clueless. It can really damage your reputation as a Therapist if they either go to another salon afterwards or start telling all their friends about it, when it’s clear to everyone else that it was the complete wrong way to treat them.

I've also had a client tell me exactly what she was going to have done and what she was going to pay for it, as if we were running a create your own price list! The price she wanted to pay was ridiculously lower than what it should be; I had to tell her no and explain why. She stormed out, and although this is probably one of the worst outcomes there could be I knew I was absolutely right to stand my ground and not let her boss me about. It would be ludicrous to let someone bully me into giving such a massive discount, completely unfair to other clients and terrible for business, what would she be demanding next free treatments and products - we'd be running at a loss in no time.

Explain yourself!

When you take your client through to the room just make sure you explain to them very clearly what they need to do after you leave them to get ready. If they're a novice when it comes to beauty treatments they could be left in a cloud of panic wondering what they're meant to do while you've left them. I've walked in to find clients standing in the middle of the room completely starkers or with paper knickers on their head! You’re then left with the awkward task of telling them that's not quite what you meant, leaving yourself and the client embarrassed. So while you think some things are obvious state them anyway just in case!

Treat everyone like they’re your mum

Clients can test your patience sometimes, being fussy, indecisive or perhaps bossy! On a training course once the trainer told us to treat every client like they’re your mum. I think this really helps to sympathise with the client and make sure you give them the best treatment that you can.

Imagine your mum going somewhere, spending her hard earned cash on a treatment and the therapist cutting corners or getting irritated, it would upset you right? So next time a client is getting on your nerves, imagine they are someone’s mum/daughter/whatever and they have come to you for a lovely treatment so that’s what they deserve to get!

Even your most loyal clients will leave you

People are fickle and I’ve learnt the hard way that seemingly very small things to you can make them not come anymore. I had a client who came all the time, once every two weeks at least for a couple of years. I enjoyed doing her treatments she was so chirpy and friendly and absolutely loved her treatments.

Once she had a four hour appointment booked in on a very busy day. She called two hours before and wanted to cancel most of the appointment leaving just 45 mins of treatment instead without giving a reason. I said it was fine and asked her if she could give a bit more notice next time. Five minutes late she rang back, cancelled the 45 min appointment that she had and I have never heard from her again.

Other times people have stopped coming in with no reason that I can think of and some of them end up then coming back months or even years later. Sometimes they don’t. Never assume that your loyal clients are for life and don’t ever get complacent or cocky and just assume that the clients will always come no matter what.

Don't let them push their luck

Oh could you just? This is a phrase you might hear a lot. Sometimes it’s a really quick request that is no problem at all. However sometimes it’s a request that turns into something else and then something else and before you know it its 20 minutes later and you’re running late for your next client. So maybe they want to try a new eye shadow, no problem, just make sure it’s not then a mascara, concealer, foundation, blush and lipstick and they end up walking out with a free make up without buying one item that’s made you miss your lunch break.

We all want to give our clients the best service and make them feel special, but if they're asking too much then politely say that they'll have to book in for another time. Other times maybe 9am isn’t early enough for them, they might want you to come 10 mins early or ask you to swap a day off to accommodate them.

If it’s for a special occasions like a wedding or party and you don’t mind doing it then go for it. Just be careful what you agree to though because once you've done it once, they may expect it all the time and might even get offended if you say no next time.

Don't hide mistakes!

Mistakes happen. If you make a mistake, first of all don't panic. This will make the client panic and will make it much harder to fix. If it can be fixed do that before you even tell them or make it look better at least. If it’s something you can’t really fix then you really need to own up to it, they will notice when they get home anyway and then be even more annoyed that you didn’t tell them.

At least if you own up to what it is you can advise them what to do at home to make it better and offer a solution. For example if you’ve overdone it with the wax and their eyebrows have gone far too thin, or worse have a gap you could show them how to cover it up with pencil or give them some growth serum. I know a hairdresser that has accidentally cut off a skin tag on a client’s neck and used hairspray to stop the bleeding and a therapist that has dropped blue black tint on the back of blonde client’s hair. They would be so mad when they got home and never go back to the salon again! Own up to it, reassure them and fix it for them.

Have a coffee

Dim lighting, a warm cosy room, twinkling music....All of these things make for a very relaxing environment for your client. However if you're not feeling on top form yourself that day then there can be a knock on effect for you. Feeling sleepy in a treatment is so difficult and while closing your eyes whilst massaging or resting your head on the side during a mask can seem very tempting you'll have some explaining to do if the client opens their eyes and sees you!

One therapist I know actually feel asleep during a facial and head butted the client as she dropped off! Luckily for her the client saw the funny side but that could have gone completely the other way. The obvious solution would be to get a good night's rest so you're fresh as a daisy for work but this doesn't always happen. Fuel yourself for the day, eat well, have some caffeine on hand, drink plenty of cold water and avoid those sugar rushes and lows.

Here come the girls

Working in beauty means working in a predominantly female environment. This can have its pro's and con's. A lot of people would assume it’s a very bitchy and competitive workplace however I think it is really what you make it. Staying clear of any bitching etc. can make for a much easier and more pleasant work place.

Working with girls can be really fun. I've got lots of friends who I've worked with over the years and kept in contact with and still see regularly. It's great to have friends in the industry that you can talk about work with and having connections can be beneficial career wise too but more importantly more friends just enriches your life!

It’s a small world!

I'm still always surprised by how many of my clients know each other. Clients who I have individually done for years I suddenly find out are great friends or cousins, sometimes they don't even know themselves that they both go to the same place and only find out when they bump into each other in the waiting lounge!

For this very reason there are two really important things, treat everyone fairly and keep confidentiality. Both of these things are basic professional behaviours but just be careful you don't let it slip because you really trust or really like someone. Imagine you give someone a little freebie or discount and they tell another client about it, they're going to feel a bit offended that you didn't offer the same to them.

Or even worse you tell a client a hilarious story about something that has happened, she repeats this to a friend over a coffee and oh dear it was this friend that the story was about. She is not going to think it's very funny and the other client will probably not come back either for fear of what you are telling other clients about her!

So these are some of the lessons I have learnt. I’m sure other Therapists have experienced these in one way or another too. No doubt there will also be other things you learn along the way. As long as you do learn from them and it makes you a better therapist in the end then some good will have come out of it. Who knows, maybe even one day you’ll look back and laugh.

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